quest for clean drinking water puts girls at risk and lost school days
Treas is a rural village located in the western part of Siem Reap Province, about 83 kilometers from downtown Siem Reap. Over 85 percent of the local population depends on natural resources in the area to support their livelihoods. Most families are only able to plant rice one time a year while some families generate income from selling forestry and fishery products in the local area. Some farmers are faced with agriculture yielding failure and are then forced to migrate to work in other cities as laborers.The local residents are still concerned over drought and lacking water -
especially in the dry season because water sources in the area are easily contaminated with germs and bacteria. Community members typically collect their water from boreholes and ponds in the village to use for cooking, drinking, laundry, and bathing. The school in the village also lacks access to clean water - there is a borehole and a pond that the school utilizes for year-round consumption. The most important need in the school is access to clean drinking water.
“I always worry about my kids’ safety living without adequate safe water and latrine at home," said Lun Koeun, a 35-year-old farmer who has three children and lives in the village center. "During the dry season, most of the water sources in the village become dried up so I have to wake up early and rush to collect water because there are so many people that need to collect water too. I collect water for cooking, drinking, bathing and laundry.
Sometimes my daughters walk to collect water during the nighttime and snakes have bitten them. Every year in the dry season I have to migrate away to work as a laborer in the city. I am always concerned about my kids because there is no clean drinking water even at their school. I am unhappy to hear when my children get sick because I have little money to pay for their care and this has impacted their learning progress in the school.”
Kou Kear, a 14-year-old 6th grade student of Chhouk Raingsei Primary School explains the poor water conditions that she and her classmates are hoping will change with clean water, “I am the oldest sister in my family so I have a lot of responsibilities such as to collect water from the pond. It is not easy to get up early in the morning while I am still sleepy and walk about 500 meters from my house to the pond. Then after that I have to prepare myself to school.”
Clean water access will change the lives of every child here according to Leav Kosal, Headmaster of Chhouk Raingsei Primary School who said, "My school has water source from the pond, but it is dirty and visibly contaminated with germs. Students wash their hands here, but they feel afraid to drink this water because it proved unsafe and they have seen their friends get diarrhea by drinking this water. The most wanted thing here is clean drinking water.”